Tonight, as Israel celebrates the day of its renewed independence, I want to pay my own tribute.

Now, for those who think: oh no! It’s going to be another flowery biased, one-sided overview of the country, I want you to know… You’re absolutely right!!  And why the hell not?  Israel has achieved so much and Jews have got so many reasons to feel proud about this special place.  I for one, intend to make that known.

Rather than criticise Israel and tell you what’s wrong, I will look upon upon this country and tell you what’s right.

So this evening, as celebrations erupt across Israel and the Jewish world… I want to pay a tribute.

I want to pay tribute to the thousands of soldiers of the IDF who stand guard each day and night; Jews, Christians and Muslims. Soldiers who are the guarantee that our country will not be taken away again. They defend their country with their blood and their honour.

I want to pay tribute to all those individuals, kids really, who leave their families from abroad and come to Israel to volunteer in the army. They don’t have to – they choose to.

I want to pay tribute to all those Israeli citizens, who day in and day out go about their normal lives in freedom, despite the constant threat around them.

I want to pay tribute to those behind the countless shwarma and felaffel stands who spot you from across the street and before you know it, hand you over a freshly prepared midday snack which you didn’t even order.

I want to pay tribute to the farmers of this land and those that grow the food that fills us with sensory delights.

I want to pay tribute to the bus drivers who drive with the skills of formula one racers – and sometimes just as fast!

I want to pay tribute to the doctors and the scientists who discover every day new ways to help the people of this world live lives that are fuller and richer and more rewarding.

I want to pay tribute to the kibbutzim who have built this land from nothing – turning worthless swamps into flourishing lands.

I want to pay tribute to every person who has ever made Aliyah and returned home to the land of their forefathers.

I want to pay tribute to the musicians and composers who have provided us with music that moves us to tears, reaches into the core of our hearts and doesn’t let go.

I want to pay tribute to the poets and the writers who write with a passion that doesn’t allow us to be a mere reader, but an active participant.

I want to pay tribute to the archaeologists who each day uncover another part of our history, peeling back another layer of truth and revealing more of ourselves.

I want to pay tribute to the hearts and compassion of Israeli people – people who once gave me bus money when I was stranded in a small desert town with the only ATM machine not working.

I want to pay tribute to the land itself whose transcendent glow penetrates the barriers of time.

I want to pay tribute to the country’s constant quest for peace, despite the almost insurmountable odds against it.

I want to pay tribute to the mercy missions Israel sends around the world to countries in times of crisis – missions that save lives and make a difference. You make the heart swell with pride.

I want to also pay tribute to Israel’s ongoing mission to bring Jews homes to Eretz Yisrael. It is the soul of this country without which the heart would not beat.

And lastly, I want to pay tribute to every person in Israel and outside – who work tirelessly to promote this country. Those who write articles and those who run websites and those who attend rallies and those who speak up and those who positively promote this country not for money, but for love.

Jews are extremely lucky to have Israel – a country that has surely changed the world. But even though it’s a strong country, its real power will never lie in its armoury and its weapons.  Instead it will lie in its citizens: the men, the women, the children and all those who support it.